Eastern Germany - Sundown
September 6, 1596
Cassaundra Langston stood tall. Tall, and without any outward sign of the fear she was feeling deep inside. Fear...true fear...but not for the reason one might think. This fear was innate, and as such it was all-consuming; but this fear had nothing to do with the fear someone might have at the prospect of losing one's life. This fear was all about the innocent people of her village; this fear was because she knew she would no longer be able to protect this village.
She knew this fear was the reason she was light-headed and barely able to breathe. Cassaundra knew her time had come; and she knew what was to come; she had resigned herself to it; just as she knew her mother Ellizabeth, had also.
The bonds that held her to the stake set in the middle of a large pile of firewood were firm and did not allow her even the smallest possible bit of hope for escape. She knew she would die tonight. Once the firewood was lit, Cassaundra knew she and Ellizabeth would be burned at the stake for the crime of practicing witchcraft.
It appeared as if everyone from their village had shown up to watch as they were put to death. The fools, Cassaundra thought, yes fools. She knew most of these people were just innocents, but as far as she was concerned at this moment in time, they were all damn fools. They could not or would not see what was about to happen to them.
Each one of these people were afraid; and she knew they were frightened to their very core because of what they believed her and her mother to be; but just because they were witches did not make them any different from these people. It did not mean that they were the ones these people should be afraid of. No, there were far worse things out there that these people needed to be afraid of, and now they wouldn't have the protection that both Cassaundra and her mother, Ellizabeth had provided.
Cassaundra sighed as a new realization dawned on her. No one was going to help her or her mother, that was a given considering this town's belief that witches were evil. But because they were afraid of them, they were ignoring a far deadlier danger and Cassaundra knew that it was because these people were more afraid of each other than the real evil out there.
These people could not, no they would not, help her and her mother simply because to do so would mean they would end up standing accused alongside them. To help them, would be signing their own death warrant; so Cassaundra knew they were alone in this. No rescue would be coming.
While it was true that Cassaundra and Ellizabeth were witches, they were not evil, and they were not the ones to be feared. In fact, these people needed them more than they could even imagine. This village needed their kind to help them see what real evil was out there, and they needed protection from that evil.
There was a dangerous evil lurking out there in the shadows. If this village knew what waited for them, out there in the darkness, they would have understood exactly what the women had done and what's more they would have understood why they had done it.
But they did not know the truth, and the fact was that they could never know. If they ever learned the truth, their world would fall apart around them and everything they had been raised to believe in would suddenly become lies. Most of humanity could not understand the evil that existed in this world. From the time they could understand, they were taught to believe in God and to place their souls in His hands. To suddenly find out that God condoned witches as good; well they just wouldn't understand. To them witches were evil, and God was good. Putting the two on the same side just wasn't possible.
Cassaundra knew true evil though; she knew it well. She knew what it wanted from these people; she knew what it would do to them; and yes, because she and her mother were witches, they were there to fight tis evil. And they were doing it in the name of God.
Cassaundra and Ellizabeth weren't just ordinary witches; they were much more than that. They were Hunters. Hunters of evil; supernatural evil. It was their job to take out evil and to protect all innocents from it. Evil... true evil could do so many bad things out there, and it had to be stopped, by any means necessary.
There was something lurking here in this village; their village, and the women had been doing their job, not practicing witchcraft. But their job had been compromised when Cassaundra and Ellizabeth had been caught using their witchcraft to fight against a demon.
Both Cassaundra and Ellizabeth were members of The Order. A group created by the Greater Church of Europe to fight what was out there destroying this world. They were tasked with the job of protecting mankind from the demonic evils that had been unleashed upon this world at the dawn of time. They were at war, and The Order taught them how to use their powers for good and to help others. Cassaundra's family fought using their witchcraft to make things even in this war, a biblical war.
She had never doubted in the beliefs her mother had taught her any more than Ellizabeth would have doubted when her parents, who had helped the Church start The Order, had taught them to her. Cassaundra would never turn her back on what they were doing; it was in her blood. She was the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter and as such they had a mission. A mission written down for the ages in a line of witches recruited to fight the evil of this world, and they would fight until they could fight no more.
But now it seemed that they were done with the fight; they had been seen and without knowing what the women had really been doing, they had been arrested. What's more, they had been brought down by a mortal, a man that once had been very important to the both of them. A man that Ellizabeth had once loved, and probably still did. A man that Cassaundra had, up until this very moment, called her father.
Johnathan Hayden had once been a good man, but recently he had become more and more paranoid about simple things. He had become hateful and he had suddenly turned his back on the both of them. Neither woman had heard from him in months, and then yesterday he had come knocking at their door; and he hadn't come alone. Johnathan had come with the village council and the local constable; he'd come to turn them in.
Cassaundra fought against the memory of the hatred in his eyes as he pointed to her and her mother and denounced them to be witches. He knew what would happen if the village followed through with his allegations, but he hadn't cared. He'd stood by and watched as they'd been locked up in chains and led off to a dark filthy dungeon to wait for their trial which had been nothing short of condemnation on his part as well as the small village. Johnathan's testimony had sealed their fate, and as a result here they stood, waiting to die.
Cassaundra struggled with the fear that kept threatening to overtake her, but she held strong. She was determined to face her fate with her head held high. They had all trained for moments like this; trained just as hard as they trained for the actual fights. Yes, she was afraid to die, and she knew that was only natural, but truth be told, she was more upset at herself for letting it get to this point.
Upset that she had not been able to stop evil from taking one of these innocents. An innocent and a child. Losing an innocent was terrible, but when that innocent life was that of a child, it became horrific.
She felt as if she had failed. Failed at their mission to save lives and she knew too well that was never supposed to be an option. She had failed to protect that child and now she and her mother, Ellizabeth had been caught. They were about to die, because she had failed to do her job.
She sucked in the cool night air, trying to fill her heart as well as her lungs. She had never regretted being a witch or becoming a Hunter, though. That was in her blood; it was her destiny; it was the destiny of every firstborn son and daughter in their line; the Lincoln witch line.
Cassaundra was proud of her heritage and what her family had accomplished so far in this ongoing battle between good and evil. She also knew that because of her work, she would be welcomed into Heaven. They all knew that, and that was the one thing she could give to her family. They would know they would be all right. But she did have one other regret.
She did not want to leave behind her children. She knew she would be given the choice, though; she could renew her soul and return to a new life or she could become a Guardian and watch over other witches out there. She loved her family so much and leaving them would be the hardest part of her sacrifice, but she hoped that if she chose to be a Guardian, she could watch over her own lineage. She didn't want to leave this fight, and if she could continue in some way, then that was what she would do.
Ellizabeth watched her daughter closely. She knew Cassaundra would have a hard time dealing with their capture. Not because of their death sentence, but more because it meant to her that they had failed their mission. She would feel their failure was what had done them in, and now their secret was out there.
But Ellizabeth knew it was not Cassaundra's fault they'd failed. No, it was her own fault. She had been the one who should have known what was happening with Johnathan. She had seen all the signs and she had suspected what he had become. She had been closer to the man than anyone, and she had seen the changes in him firsthand; she had seen him go from a loving kindhearted gentle man, to this man that now stood out there in this crowd watching them.
She knew he had become possessed by evil. She had not seen the actual possession happen, but she had trained for this and had learned everything to watch for, she knew all the signs, and yet she'd ignored it all. She hadn't wanted it to be true of the man she had loved for the last forty years of her adult life. She didn't want to have to kill the man, even though she knew he was already dead. When Johnathan had shown up while they were fighting for that child's soul, she should have known he was there to witness what they were doing.
Billy Miller had been just barely ten years old and he had been dead before either Cassaundra or Ellizabeth had even known that he needed their help. He had died from a fall caused by the demon possessing Johnathan so that another lower level demon could step into his tiny body. He had been a casualty of this war and it had been the hardest thing either woman had ever had to face.
Demons were nasty and they represented the highest level of evil known to man. In fact, they were second only to Satan himself. They preferred to possess a lifeless body, so that person's soul couldn't fight back with the possession. A living host could fight the possession and only a strong upper level demon would be able to control them.
And Ellizabeth knew all of that despite her feelings of failure. By the time they had found the boy, the demon was already in full possession of him. The women had done their job; they had forced the demon from the boy's body and had destroyed it. By getting the demon out, they had ensured that Billy's body could be buried in consecrated ground and his soul would be free to move from this earth to Heaven swiftly.
They had done what had been necessary to force the demon out but doing that had been hard for the two women. They'd had to incapacitate the body by causing it harm. Small injuries a demon could control, but severe injuries would be hard for a lower level demon to control.
They had to release Billy's body from the demon's control in order to allow his body to remain pure and so his family could properly grieve their loss. But the two women could not very well explain why they needed to do this. The people here would not understand what needed to be done in order to save Billy's body.
It had been the act of piercing the boy's eyes that had caused the demon to lose the ability to 'see' and he was forced to vacate the body. Once he was outside Billy's body, Cassaundra had been able to send him back to Hell by scoring his non-corporeal essence with the golden dagger she had hidden in a crucifix she carried on a scarf tied around her waist.
Witches can 'see' a true demon's face in the host body, and this was why The Order had chosen witches as sanctioned Hunters. But because no one else can see a demon's true form, Cassaundra & Ellizabeth were witnessed by Johnathan and another person, Johnathan's son, Wilhelm. And while the women knew Johnathan, or the demon inside him, could see the other demon, Wilhelm could not.
And so here they were, about to die for the murder of the young boy. They were going to die because the demon in Johnathan had led these people to accuse them of murder and witchcraft.
Ellizabeth turned to focus on her daughter and quietly communicated to her that they needed to be strong. They knew the Church could not intervene to save them from being witnessed using their magic. It was too late to correct what had been done to them, but they could do one last thing to help this village.
Cassaundra nodded her understanding and heaved another heavy sigh. She understood and as she watched the people gathering around them to watch their gruesome demise, she couldn't help feeling a sense of loss at knowing she would not be able to see her family again. She would accept her death the same as her mother, because no matter the unfairness, they both ultimately believed in what they had done was the right thing to do.
She had made sure her family had gotten out of this country and that they would be safe elsewhere so that her oldest daughter would be able to carry on their line as servants of the Church. They had just one last thing that they could do to help this village. They would make sure these people were protected from the demon in Johnathan as well as any other evil. They would need to speak directly to the evil lingering out there. She looked at her mother and quietly communicated what they would need to do.
"Ellizabeth Lincoln and Cassaundra Lincoln Langston, you have been hereby found guilty of the crimes of witchcraft and murder. Your use of witchcraft against the child, William Miller is noted as the true cause of his death. Your punishment for these crimes is to burn until your very soul is dragged down into Hell. Do either of you have any last words?" Benjamin Van Millen, the tall solidly built man who was their executioner spoke to them.
He was perhaps the only one person who could understand what their true crime was. He was also a member of The Order. The Church had sent him to ensure that even though they would die, they would be properly taken care of. He would be sure that their deaths were humane. He had already slipped each woman a small vial that they would be able to snap and break quickly to allow a liquid to be absorbed directly into their skin that would cause a quick and painless death before they died by burning.
Cassaundra turned to face the crowd and speaking very clearly, she stated, "beware of the evils that walk this earth, for they will someday find you. They are who you should really fear, not witches. We have only tried to protect you. There is a real evil out there and we have only just begun this war against it.
"But one day, there will come a white witch who will have the powers of every witch before her, and she will come to protect all mankind from the demons that lurk in the shadows. She will also seek retribution for the murders of every witch and innocent person wrongly accused. Beware, as she will seek out all of those who have caused pain and death to others. If you are evil, she will find you. She will search and she will find you. Beware." Ellizabeth joined Cassaundra on the last of her words.
The executioner bent and lit the fires under the women. People watched as the flames grew and moved to begin engulfing each woman. No one seemed to notice that the two women had already broken their vials to release the poison onto their skin. They were dead before the flames began to burn away their clothing.
"Beware!" The word seemed to echo all around the villagers, and everyone seemed frozen in place with the sight of the execution before them. They silently watched as they saw two ghostly apparitions begin to float away from the bodies and hover over the women.
Maybe it was that sight of this or maybe it was the women's warning, but the entire village was mesmerized by what was happening. The two ghostly figures seemed to stay right above each woman and then the figures seemed to be repeating the word over and over again. "Beware! Beware! Beware!"
*This material has been copywritten and is currently set to be published. I am seeking reviews to determine if this book will have any interest to others. Please note that while the prologue is serious, the rest of the book will have lots of humor. Thank you and please let me know what you think.